Night Music *
Sette pezzi per orchestra
Sharon Bezaly (flute) *
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra
Recorded December 1999 and May 2000 (American Serenade) at Aalborghallen, Aalborg, Denmark
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: January 2003
CD No: BIS-CD-1099
Although Hungary-born Antal Doráti (1906-1988) considered himself a composer who conducted, it is as a conductor he will be best remembered. His many recordings, especially for Mercury and Decca, will ensure that. His conducting appointments were largely in the States – Minneapolis (now Minnesota), Washington and Detroit – and in London with the BBC Symphony and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras.
In 1941 Doráti followed his countryman Bartók to America. It is the muse of Bartók – night-atmosphere and harmonic note clusters – that hovers over Doráti’s music. Add Stravinsky and, perhaps, Roberto Gerhard. Rhythmic clarity (a hallmark of Doráti’s conducting), textural delineation and linear structures are the characteristics of Doráti’s mature composing style. This is particularly well represented in the Sette pezzi (1961), a half-hour collection beginning with a mysterious prelude before the crystal-clear scoring and driving momentum of ’Assalto’. The snaky syncopation of the following ’Vortice’ suggests choreography – Sette Pezzi actually derives from his ballet score Magdalena. Imbued with ambience, colour and great imagination, nothing is predictable, and the whole, whether in rhythmic dexterity or long sensuous lines, gratifies the ear and the senses.
Night Music, the flute joined by strings, two horns and harp, is a five-movement nocturnal journey (from evening to dawn) in which the flute shows its lyrical and cavorting side in dance-related forms. Sharon Bezaly plays with sensitivity, agility and impressive depth of timbre. The closing ’Postludio’ has string chords that remind of the slow movement of Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto; the flute sings from darkest night.
American Serenade (for strings) was written early into Doráti’s ’new world’ sojourn, a time of creative hiatus and of building his conducting career. It’s an attractive mix of Hungarian elements, nostalgic refrains and a more popular cut; Victor Herbert came to mind. The opening ’Spiritual’ has a Magyar accent amidst the soulful expression. The concluding ’Dance’, syncopated and gently outgoing, will find a home with anyone who knows Samuel Barber’s Serenade and David Diamond’s Rounds.
BIS has previously released Doráti’s two symphonies (composer-conducted on CD-408). What is needed now is a recording of Im Herbst (baritone and orchestra). Meanwhile a cordial welcome is extended to this excellent release, which is beautifully recorded in terms of balancing warmth and focus, and the performances exude commitment.